Training and preventing roadside tragedies

Towing is a dangerous profession. There’s no denying it. There are so many tragedies involving tow truck drivers getting struck on the side of the road, and the towing community has mourned many of its own. Certain things can contribute to these accidents, such as distracted driving and alcohol. The investigations conducted on these incidents work to determine the reason that the accident happened in the first place, looking at the actions of the people involved and the factors that led up to it. But the key is getting the takeaways from the accidents. And that’s where training comes in. Here are a few considerations for towing businesses when it comes to keeping tow operators safe as they work on the side of the road and preventing roadside tragedies.

Preventing roadside tragedies.

1. Remember that training is key.

There has to be training in place at towing businesses – that’s a must. This includes not only training new employees but having continuing education for current employees. Tow operators need to have appropriate training for working on the side of the road, and operator safety needs to be at the forefront. This training should help to identify the dangers that operators will face out on the road and the potential consequences of these dangers. Everyone needs to understand these dangers and respect them so that they take the proper measures to stay safe.

2. Make sure that everyone knows to stay out of the way.

This may seem a bit self-evident, but the traffic side of the tow truck is a dangerous place to be. The median and shoulder are also dangerous. It’s best to stay on the side of the truck that is away from the cars that are flying down the road. Tow trucks are typically tripped out with two sets of controls – one of them is on the driver’s side and the other on the passenger side. Tow operators should use the set of controls that is not on the traffic side of the truck when they can so they’re staying away from traffic as much as possible. (They should keep the bulk of the tow truck between them and the cars on the road. A tow truck can fare better in a collision than a defenseless person.)

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3. Make sure to warn oncoming traffic.

It’s also important to let drivers know that there’s something going on up ahead so they can slow down safely and stay alert. Being seen and giving drivers a head’s up is a safety essential. That means using triangles, flares, and cones to let drivers know they need to take care. These cues are a big deal. You can check out the federal regulations found in CFR 49 to see the guidelines for giving warning.

4. Ensure that your drivers are visible.

In addition to using triangles and cones, tow truck operators need to wear high-visibility reflective clothing. That allows the operator to stand out against the night sky so drivers can see them more easily – and again, know to slow down and be careful. Tow companies should make it part of the protocol for operators to wear reflective clothing when they’re working on a job on the side of the road. That should just be a given, and something everyone is on the same page about when it comes to preventing roadside tragedies.

5. Have policies and protocols.

There should be policies and protocols to ensure the safety of towing operators and their clients in place to handle each towing job. Employees should be trained on these procedures, and they should be aware of the employer’s expectation that they are adhered to. This also includes sending your more experienced operators to jobs that could potentially be riskier. Of course, you don’t want to put anyone in danger or in harm’s way, but the experience that your seasoned operators can help them.

6. Keep track of your training.

It’s really important that your operators don’t attempt to assist at jobs until they have had the proper training and they’ve shown that they can handle being on the scene. You can consider getting formal training from a recognized, reputable training group. (And an American Towman article suggests keeping copies of the courses or training that each employee has done in their file so you can more easily keep track.) Traffic Incident Management Training is something else you can look into.

7. Don’t forget the lessons.

The tow tragedies that are in the news are upsetting and awful, of course, and the towing community mourns the losses deeply. However, if there are any lessons to be learned from these stories, let all towing operators absorb them and put them into practice.

Towing on the side of the road is a dangerous undertaking. That’s why proper training is so important, as is a commitment to safety that echoes through every level of the towing business. There are too many terrible tales out there about tow operators getting struck while they’re working. So, from all of us here at Tow Truck Insurance Rates, stay safe out there.

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Resch, Randall C. “What Do the Investigations Recommend? Preparation.”

American Towman, Jan. 2020, p. 40 – 45.

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